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1More Aero review: budget-friendly head-tracked spatial audio on a budget
5:46 pm | March 23, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: , , | Comments: Off

1More Aero: Two-minute review

1More is an audio tech brand that hasn’t produced devices on a par with big names such as Sony, Bose or even JBL – at least not yet. But over the past few years it has been releasing both over-ear headphones and true wireless earbuds that have held their own in a crowded market, including the 1More Evo, 1More Sonoflow and 1More ComfoBuds Mini. So how do the 1More Aero true wireless earbuds compare? 

The good news is that the 1More Aero true wireless earbuds are the definite step up from 2022’s 1More ComfoBuds Pro that 1More claims they are. They’re solid all-rounders that offer an impressive set of features for their price. I enjoyed the good overall sound quality on offer, ANC works well and battery life is… fine. I also liked the fit and the tapered stem design that 1More first debuted with the ComfoBuds Pro – although that’s down to personal preference.

However, there are many true wireless earbuds to choose from these days, from the best true wireless earbuds your money can buy through to the best budget wireless earbuds for those who want a cheaper alternative. So what sets the 1More Aero apart from the rest? The answer is spatial audio, which makes it seem as if you’re hearing sound from all around you in a three-dimensional space – and crucially here, it even alters you turn your head from the source device.

There’s a lot to love about the 1More Aero buds, but spatial audio for around $100/£100 is the main selling point here. But although I certainly enjoyed listening to my favorite tracks with spatial audio switched on, does everyone really need spatial audio? Read on to find out more in this 1More Aero review. 

Someone holding one of the 1More Aero true wireless earbuds with the charging case in the background.

The first thing you’ll notice about the 1More Aero is those stems, which are tapered at the ends. (Image credit: Future/TechRadar/Becca Caddy)

1More Aero review: Price & release date

  • Cost $109.99/£99.99/around AU$182
  • Released in October 2022

The 1More Aero true wireless earbuds were released in October 2022 and cost $109.99/£99.99/around AU$182. Hovering around the $100/£100 mark makes the 1More Aero a similar price compared to rivals and they just qualify for TechRadar's best budget earbuds category. However, the competition is pretty fierce at this level. 

The most obvious competition comes from the Earfun Air Pro 3. TechRadar also described these buds as good all-rounders and they cost $99/£99 at launch – although you can find them a little cheaper now. The Air Pro 3 buds offer a similar sound and ANC experience, as well as a significantly longer battery life, but you won’t get spatial audio. 

To get the spatial audio feature you’ll find in the 1More Aero, instead you’d need to spend significantly more for alternatives, like the LG Tone Free T90Q ($229.99 / £199.98) and Sony WF-1000XM4s ($279.99 / £250 / AU$449.95). More on whether the 1More Aero buds perform at the levels of these higher-end options soon…

1More Aero review: Specs

The 1More Aero earbuds pictured on a wooden surface next to their charging case.

I really love the design of these buds, but appreciate they won’t be for everyone – especially if you don’t like stems. (Image credit: Future/TechRadar/Becca Caddy)

1More Aero review: Features

  • Head-tracked spatial audio is the star of the show
  • ANC works well 
  • Smart Loudness tech is handy

Before I even put the 1More Aero to the test, I was impressed with the range of features on offer here, many of which can be tweaked within the 1More app, which I found clear and easy to use. 

The first noteworthy feature is ANC. During my testing, I found noise cancelling to be generally impressive. There are four levels of ANC to choose from, but I opted for the highest level ‘Strong’ the most often. Because why put ANC on if you’re not going to put it ON, right? Although if you work in an office and need varying levels, the choice might be handy for you. 

ANC was effective, drowning out conversations in a coffee shop completely. Difficult, higher-pitched sounds, like an alarm and toddler screaming, were muffled but still audible. And deep rumbling sounds, like a train and a fan, were still detectable a little, but everything was significantly dulled. If you’re looking for buds to simply lessen the chatter at work, these will do nicely. There’s also a transparency mode, which is handy for conversations, but I found it easier to just pop one of the buds out instead of faffing with my phone. 

Something I haven’t seen before is a Smart Loudness feature, which you can switch on and off and then use a slider to amp up. This is to keep the bass, mids and trebles detectable at low volumes, but it was hit-and-miss. If you listen to music at lower volumes it’s worth turning on, especially to reintroduce bass, but it wasn’t a feature that wowed me.

You can control the buds via touch controls on the stems and you can customize what these do via the app – although there’s no option to decline a call. These controls worked well most of the time, but sometimes weren’t as responsive and sensitive as I'd have liked. I found myself getting my phone out to make adjustments instead.

Within the app (oddly, under 'Experimental Features') there’s the option to switch on multipoint pairing, allowing you to move between audio input devices. Although there was a slight lag as I switched between a phone and a laptop, it did work and it’s a feature that’s incredibly handy – especially when working on my laptop, then taking a voice call on my phone, then moving back to the laptop to listen to music or join yet another video call. 

In terms of battery life, you’ll get 7 hours from the buds with ANC off and 5 hours with ANC on. I found these estimates from 1More to be bang on during my testing. You can get 28 hours in total from the case and buds combined, with ANC off. That’s a decent amount of battery life, but can be bested by similar-priced rivals, like the EarFun Air Pro 3 that gives you 9 hours from the buds and 36 hours from the case with ANC off. Or the JBL Live Pro 2 buds, which offer 40 hours of listening time in total. And TechRadar's pick of the bunch here is the far cheaper Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus, which will bag you 35 hours in High Performance mode, or 45 in Low Power mode… 

  • Features score: 5/5

The 1More Aero true wireless earbuds in their charging case

We like the clam shell style design of the 1More Aero charging case. (Image credit: Future/TechRadar/Becca Caddy)

1More Aero review: Sound quality

  • Enjoyable sound
  • ANC isn’t great but it’s good enough
  • Spatial audio is fun – especially for TV, movies and games

Overall, I found the 1More Aero buds an enjoyable listen. I felt that way across the genres too – noting a really nice balance, with crisp highs and crystal clear vocals, underpinned by more than enough bassline rumble underneath when it was needed. 

There was a real smoothness and warmth to some of my favorite tracks, too, like Tango by Onyx Collective. When I listened to big, classical tracks, like Johann Johannsson’s score for Arrival, I occasionally yearned for a wider, more expansive listen, which I've experienced with other buds at the level (see the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro). But I was impressed with the power and bass these little buds delivered through their solid low end, handling such epic and eerie instrumental tracks well.

You can tweak the sound, too. Within the 1More app there’s an equalizer you can manually adjust, as well as a bunch of EQ presets, including Studio and Classical. I enjoyed testing some of these and recommend you do the same, although some seemed a bit heavy-handed. Case in point: Bass Booster with Latto x Mariah Carey’s Big Energy made the bassline sound, well… a bit silly, like I was listening to a boomy sample track on a keyboard. The same goes for Vocal Booster, and Pop, which was very tinny. Then again, putting Bass Booster on for the Arrival soundtrack actually added to the drama. The lesson here is, you’ll need to play around with the settings to see what suits you – and you might need to do that each time you switch genres. 

On the subject of settings, switch spatial audio on and you’re in for a 360-degree sound treat. I mostly felt as if positional audio was accurate, so sounds came from a central stage or instruments around me. There’s head tracking here too, which essentially means that as well as feeling like sound is all around you, to some extent, you’re moving around it too.

I probably enjoyed spatial audio the most when watching TV shows and movies. For example, I watched The Mandalorian with the 1More Aeros and replayed a scene when the Razor Crest landed with and without spatial audio. It was subtle, but definitely created more of a cinematic, stereo sound feel than I'm used to.

Back to music, putting on spatial audio halfway through De La Soul’s Supa Emcees and selecting the Hip-Hop EQ preset was a pleasing upgrade. The track came alive more than ever. It might sound a bit cheesy, but it genuinely felt like I’d gone from listening to a track positioned directly in front of me to hearing it performed on a stage above me – exactly what you want from spatial audio. 

I felt the same about pop music. Miley Cyrus’ Flowers was noticeably elevated with spatial audio switched on. I then chose the Deep preset for added bass and Studio for a more neutral listen. The energy of this track was simply phenomenal. The best earbuds can help you notice things about your favorite tracks you haven’t before. 

Having said that, not all music was as sparkly and elevated with spatial audio – even tracks optimized for it – and I did prefer the spatial audio experience with other buds, like the LG Tone Free T90Q, as they provided a more consistent and convincing sound. Then again, that was for almost double the price. 

I did wonder whether the wow factor of spatial audio had already faded. This might be because, other than the EQ settings, you can’t change anything else about how spatial audio or head tracking works, which it would have been nice to adjust. Then again, this is an affordable application of spatial audio, so I really am being picky. 

  • Sound quality score: 4/5

The 1More Aero earbuds pictured on a wooden surface next to their charging case.

Each 1More Aero bud weighs 4.9g, making them lightweight and therefore comfy enough to wear for hours at a time.  (Image credit: Future/TechRadar/Becca Caddy)

1More Aero review: Design

  • Teardrop design 
  • Light at 4.9g per bud
  • They stay put

Like a lot of true wireless earbuds on the market at the moment, the 1More Aero buds have a stem-like design. At first glance they may look very similar to other buds, like the Apple AirPods Pro, but they’re a little different in that they’re teardrop-shaped with tapered ends. I like this small design quirk when other brands are just copying and pasting the AirPods design, but appreciate they may not be for everyone. 

The buds are light at 4.9g each, which makes them easy to wear for long periods. In fact, I had no trouble keeping them in for most of the working day and you have S, M, L and XL tips to choose from to find the perfect fit. The silicone tips I selected created a decent seal. They came a little loose when I wore them for more than 30 minutes, and I did knock the stems a couple of times, but this experience was no different to all of the other true wireless earbuds I’ve tested. 

There’s an IPX5 rating here, which means these buds are not fully waterproof but are certainly sweat-proof and rain-proof, which makes them a good option if you’re looking for a pair of workout buds. Although they did budge enough for me to keep securing them during a jog and when I was trying to perfect my downward-facing dog, although not enough to fall out.

The buds come with a charging case that’s small enough to slide into a pocket and weighs 45.2g. It has a clamshell-style design which I personally prefer to the pill-shaped box that seems to have become standard from rival brands. My only criticism of the case is the magnets that keep the buds in place could have been a bit stronger, they felt weak compared to similar devices I've tested.

  • Design score: 4/5

The 1More Aero true wireless earbuds pictured in the palm of someone's hand.

The design of the 1More Aero buds is similar to the Apple AirPods, but with a more tear-shaped tip. (Image credit: Future/TechRadar/Becca caddy)

1More Aero review: Value

  • Cheaper buds offer improvements in some areas
  • You’d have to pay much more for spatial audio

As a whole package, the 1More Aero buds are good value. They offer everything most people need from a pair of buds, including good audio and ANC, decent battery life and a comfortable fit. However, in some areas other buds shine. For example, if you want a longer battery life or a bump in ANC, there are better alternatives at a similar price – look to the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro or JBL Live Pro 2 for starters. 

That said, if you want that top-tier spatial audio feature, you’d have to pay significantly more. So in that respect, they’re great value. The question you need to ask yourself is: do you really need head-tracked spatial audio? It’s fun at first, and certainly improves the experience of TV shows and movies, but I'm not convinced it’s a must-have for everyone. 

So are the 1More Aero good value? That entirely depends on what you’re looking for. 

  • Value score: 4/5

Should I buy the 1More Aero?

Buy them if...

Don't buy them if...

1More Aero review: Also consider

How I tested the 1More Aero

Becca with the 1More Aero earbuds in her ears

I spent a week testing the 1More Aero true wireless earbuds, taking them with me everywhere I went – on a bus, to the gym, running along the beach.  (Image credit: Future/TechRadar/Becca Caddy)
  • Tested for 7 days
  • Used working at a coffee shop, while working out at home and on a few bus and train journeys
  • Mostly tested with Apple Music and iPhone 13 Pro

To test the 1More Aero buds, I took them with them everywhere over the course of a week. They came with me while working at a coffee shop, on long walks through a town, on the bus and train to meetings and kept me occupied during workouts, too. 

I’m always keen to see how true wireless buds fare over long periods, so I can really test their comfort levels and make sure the battery claims are accurate. So I kept them in for hours on end, while going from working to walking to working out. 

I mostly used the buds to listen to a range of playlists on Apple Music, but also used them to listen to audiobooks, stream podcasts and watch a few TV shows – a good chance to see how spatial audio compares with different types of sound.

I’ve been testing audio products and wearable devices for around ten years now. I like to focus on how comfortable tech is and how easy it is to use.

  • First reviewed: March 2023
EarFun Air Pro 3 review: the best cheap noise-cancelling earbuds you can get
6:55 pm | February 28, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: , | Comments: Off

EarFun Air Pro 3: Two-minute review

The EarFun Air Pro 3 are the latest affordable noise-cancelling buds from a company that makes some of the best budget wireless earbuds around. EarFun has released several pairs of earbuds that we rated highly, including the original EarFun Air Pro and EarFun Air S, all delivering decent sound and fantastic value.

The EarFun Air Pro 3 build on this further, all for under $100 / £100. In terms of design, they're more elegant-looking than their predecessors, and although they feel a little cheap, that means a light and comfortable fit that stayed put throughout the day when I tested them… with one notable exception that I'll come to. 

The EarFun Air Pro 3's ANC (active noise cancellation) isn't on par with the best noise-cancelling earbuds available today, but they cost less than half as much as most, and the decent level of quiet offered here should be good enough to focus at work or keep most sounds dampened down when you’re travelling. It's impressive for the price. 

The same goes for audio. If you’re after detailed and audiophile-grade sound, look to rivals instead. The EarFun Air Pro 3 won’t beat the top-performing buds in our best wireless earbuds guide, but I liked their punchy sound and found them fun to listen to. 

There’s a great battery life on offer here – nine hours from the buds and an additional 36 from the case – as well as multipoint pairing. There are also some next-gen features available that we couldn’t test yet, but may soon make these buds even more special, including support for the highly-anticipated Bluetooth LE Audio tech. 

No one feature stood out when I was testing the EarFun Air Pro 3. Instead, these buds are brilliant all-rounders, delivering everything most people would need from a pair of true wireless earbuds today all for well under $100/£100. But there are other options that may tempt you: the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus are better sounding, but with no ANC; the JBL Live Pro 2 feature better noise cancellation, but cost a little more.

Earfun Air Pro 3 buds held in a hand above a wooden table

There's a lot of tech packed into the affordable EarFun Air Pro 3. (Image credit: Future)

EarFun Air Pro 3 review: Price & release date

  • Released in January 2023
  • Costs $99 / £99 at launch but discounted already
  • No Australian availability at time of writing

The EarFun Air Pro 3 true wireless earbuds were launched in January 2023. They originally cost $99 / £99, but they’ve been reduced to $79 /£79 on the Earfun website and other third party retailers at the time of writing, so that's clearly a price to expect them to hit regularly. As we publish, there’s no news on Australian availability.

Their sub-$100/£100 price tag puts the EarFun Air Pro 3 at a similar price as some of our favorite budget earbuds, like the ​​Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW. But although we rated the sound of the Audio-Technica buds, there are more features on offer from the EarFun Air Pro 3, most notably ANC. 

Having spent a few weeks testing them, I'd say that the EarFun Air Pro 3 are similar in terms of sound, ANC, specs and even design as the JBL Live Pro 2, but at $149 / £129 / AU$199, the JBL are significantly more expensive.

EarFun Air Pro 3 review: Specs

Earfun Air Pro 3 case closed on wooden table

The EarFun Air Pro 3 case isn't as small as some, but is reasonably compact. (Image credit: Future)

EarFun Air Pro 3 review: Features

  • Great battery life 
  • Multipoint pairing and active noise cancellation
  • Bluetooth LE Audio support could be a game-changer

For the price, there are a lot of features on offer here. I like that the EarFun Air Pro 3 have multipoint pairing, allowing you to listen to music on your laptop and then easily switch to say taking a call on your phone. During testing, this worked well and was seamless most of the time. 

In terms of controls and customization, the EarFun Air Pro 3 buds come with an app that’s minimal but has everything you need. There are also controls at the top of the stems. At times, these touch controls required a slower, more deliberate press to work. That’s fine, but not ideal given they’re there to be used intuitively. I did like that you can customize their actions from within the app. 

It’s a shame there are no sensors that know when you take out the buds and pause the audio. That feature isn’t a dealbreaker, but it is one you don’t realize is incredibly handy until it’s not there.

The battery life of the EarFun Air Pro 3 is among the best you’ll find from a pair of true wireless buds. EarFun promises nine hours from the buds and a further 36 from the charging case. That’s a mega-impressive 45 hours in total. Of course, that’s with ANC off. With it on, we’re talking seven hours in the buds and 37 hours in total. I got 6.5 hours with ANC on at a high volume, which I still found impressive.

This is a similar battery life to some of our favorite buds, like the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus, although they don’t have ANC. It’s also just a little less than our current mid-range favorites, the JBL Live Pro 2, which offer up 40 hours of battery life in total. So considering the EarFun Air Pro 3 are budget buds with ANC, they outperform much of the competition. 

The EarFun Air Pro 3 feel like a truly modern pair of buds in terms of specs, and one feature is so cutting edge I couldn’t even test it: next-gen Bluetooth LE Audio technology. This is a new Bluetooth standard that promises to upgrade the way we listen to music, including improved sound quality and battery life. The problem? No smartphones are compatible yet. 

There’s also support for a feature called Auracast. This allows you to jump between audio playing from different devices, so you can seamlessly listen to what your friends are listening to or what’s playing in a public space – again, though, there's no support in the wild yet.

That’s not all. The buds also support Qualcomm’s apt-X Adaptive audio codec, which is capable of delivering CD-quality 16-bit.44.1kHz audio over Bluetooth. This also provides low-latency performance when streaming from devices that support the Qualcomm standard.

  • Features score: 4.5/5

Earfun Air Pro 3 close up in case on wooden table

With aptX and Bluetooth LC3 support, the EarFun Air Pro 3 are all set for Hi-Res audio. (Image credit: Future)

EarFun Air Pro 3 review: Sound quality

  • Fun but not fantastic sound
  • Adjustable EQ
  • ANC is good

The EarFun Air Pro 3 buds were powerful and punchy right out of the gate. I listened to Stevie Nicks' Edge of Seventeen and For What It’s Worth, and the signature sound was spot on, perfectly suited to these iconic tracks with big, booming vocals. 

I found this to be the case across any genre that was all about the power and the bass, these buds handle the lower end well most of the time. Other tracks felt a little muddied or just didn’t suit the boom and the energy these buds excel in. Don’t get me wrong, they were still an enjoyable listen, but I couldn’t pick out the details or hear the precision of certain vocals or instruments as much as I can with higher-performing rivals. 

I felt this acutely with Hildur Guðnadóttir and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Good Night, Day. This beautiful strings piece builds power and energy throughout, but I didn’t hear that instrumental distinction with the Air Pro 3 quite as much as I'd really like. 

At times there’s also a noticeable boom and even a rattle on the bass when you push to high volumes which, after listening for more than an hour straight, can be a bit too much. I found this to be particularly the case with ANC on.

If you want powerful sound, you’ll love them. If you like to appreciate the details of a mix, you might find them lacking. There is an equalizer on offer here that you can customize to a degree. There are also some presets, like bass boost. But I didn’t notice much of a difference when I tried them and preferred the signature profile for the most part. 

You won’t get that silent cocoon of sound type of ANC that’s typical of more expensive earbuds from these EarFun buds. But you get a sufficient level of ANC. The buds block a decent amount of bass range sounds, like the rumble of traffic. I tested them in a busy coffee shop and although all chatter wasn’t silenced, a noisy conversation next to me was significantly dampened down so as not to be annoying. You’d need to bump up in price to get noticeably better ANC.

  • Sound quality score: 4/5

Earfun Air Pro 3 buds on wooden table

The shiny stem on the EarFun Air Pro 3 helps them look more premium. (Image credit: Future)

EarFun Air Pro 3 review: Design

  • Long stem design
  • Look fancier than they are
  • Very light

When you first pick up these buds you’ll notice they feel plasticky – by which I mean: cheap – but that’s kind of good news as they’re also incredibly light at 52g for both buds and case. This is subjective, but I find the lighter the bud, the more comfy the fit. 

I achieved a good seal from the tips that came with the buds and chose the smallest size. They stayed secure and in place most of the time, but I did experience a bit of slipping when I wore them for a long time and when I took them on a run. To be fair, that’s pretty decent considering these aren’t workout buds. I only had to adjust them a few times and they do have an IPX5 rating, which makes them sweatproof and worth considering if you’re looking for a spare pair of buds for the gym.   

They have a shiny black plastic design on the back, which I didn’t like, but that’s the bit that sits against your ear. What sticks out is a long, mirrored stem with gesture controls at the top end and the EarFun logo at the button. This shiny finish is subtle and makes the buds look much more premium than their price tag suggests. 

However, the stem is long, and although the seal of the tips was great ,the stems affected it several times. This was particularly the case with long hair. When I wore my hair down around the buds, then pushed my hair out of the way, it got caught on the stems and the buds came loose. Not everyone will have this problem and I learned to be careful, especially outside. But I've tested a lot of true wireless earbuds at this point and never had this problem in the past. 

  • Design score: 4/5

Earfun Air Pro 3 buds close up on wooden table

As all-rounders, the EarFun Air Pro 3 are hard to beat. (Image credit: Future)

EarFun Air Pro 3 review: Value

  • Possibly the best sub-$100/£100 buds I’ve tried
  • You have to pay at least $50/£50 more for comparable features
  • You’d need to be sure about the design

The EarFun Air Pro 3 buds perform well in every respect, but in terms of value they’re fantastic. Although their inner shiny plastic finish may give away that they’re cheap, as does their weight, the simple mirror design of the stems makes them look much more premium than they should when you wear them. 

The ANC might not be the best, but I think it’ll suit most everyday scenarios and it’s often rare to get solid ANC with a sub-$100/£100 price tag. Just look at two of our current budget favorites, the ​​Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW and Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus, which excel in some areas more than the Air Pro 3, but don’t have ANC. 

Battery life is fantastic, multipoint pairing is handy and the Bluetooth LE Audio support will hopefully make these buds even more of a no-brainer proposition as the tech rolls out more widely. 

All in all, these buds won’t beat higher-end buds and sound is only fine, but in terms of what you get for what you pay in total, they're pretty much unmatched.

  • Value score: 5/5

Should I buy the EarFun Air Pro 3?

Buy them if...

Don't buy it if...

EarFun Air Pro 3 review: Also consider

How I tested the EarFun Air Pro 3

Earfun Air Pro 3 worn in the ears of a woman outdoors on wooden table

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested for 10 days
  • Used in home office, working at a coffee shop, the gym, countryside walk, public transport in a busy town
  • Mostly tested with Apple Music and iPhone 13 Pro

In order to put the EarFun Air Pro 3 buds through their paces, I used them in a range of different environments as I went about my daily routine over the course of 10 days. I took them to the gym when I worked out, on a walk through the countryside, while travelling by both train and bus, and out on lots of walks around suburban areas at all times of day.

These are true wireless earbuds designed to be worn for long periods, so I kept them on when transitioning from a walk outside to working back at my desk again. This was a good opportunity to try out multipoint pairing, moving from listening to a podcast and taking calls on my phone to watching videos on my laptop. 

I mostly listened to Apple Music, but also streamed podcasts, audiobooks and watched videos too – I also used them as I caught up on the latest episode of The Last of Us.

I’ve been testing audio products and wearable tech for around a decade, particularly focusing on the devices that can accompany you on walks and workouts, as well as general ease of use and comfort.

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed: February 2023
Sony WH-CH520 review: some of the best cheap headphones you can buy
7:00 pm | February 21, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: | Comments: Off

The Sony WH-CH520 are the new super-affordable headphones in Sony's wireless lineup, coming in at $60 / £60. They're on-ear Bluetooth headphones, and while, as you might expect at this price, you're not getting active noise cancellation or Hi-Res Audio support, their focus on sound (and a few useful tricks) means they're still fantastic value.

I don't mind at all when the manufacturers of the best cheap headphones put everything into audio quality, and though the sound here obviously isn't going to blow minds for the price, I could happily listen to it all day. After activating DSEE (more on that shortly), I can't fault the balance between bass, mids and treble; all are equally represented and clear, and the Sony WH-CH520 deliver a nice dose of detail.

The bass underpins things well, adding depth while staying controlled, and letting you have some fun with electronic or dance music. The mids are capable of letting vocals stretch their legs, and giving dense instrument mixes a chance to stand out, although obviously more detail is lost here than in higher-end models. And trebles elevate out of the mid-range well, feeling like they have enough room to breathe.

More expensive options in our list of the best wireless headphones don't just add extra clarity; they'll also feel more natural and offer more dynamic range, with deeper bass and brighter highs. When it comes down to it, the sound here is more constrained and compressed than it is from better headphones – but I'm very happy with the audio you get here for the price. And even better is the fact that you can use Sony's Headphones app to tweak the EQ if you want, and this is actually more effective than in most headphones I've used, cheap or expensive. 

It feels like your adjustments are changing the balance optimally, not just bluntly stamping down on the bass or cranking up the treble (or whatever change you choose to make). It has presets, or you can create your own – in the end I chose to just boost the bass a little to suit my tastes using the Clear Bass option, but almost all of my testing was done at the standard settings.

One thing I will note about the sound, though, is that it really opens up once you're listening at about 40% volume; lower than that and it sounds a little more compressed.

Also in the Headphones app, you've got the option to turn on DSEE, and I recommend doing this. This is basically an 'upscaler' for music, with Sony claiming that it can add detail back into Bluetooth-quality streaming. I didn't really feel any difference with detail in the music I listened to, but it did immediately add some warmth to the mid-range that was a small but clear improvement.

Sony WH-CH520 headphones on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)

Compared to the Sony CH510 that the Sony CH520 replace, there's more cushioning, which is always appreciated in the best on-ear headphones as their design means their earpads sit directly on your ears, which not everyone loves. In fact, I personally avoid them, because I find them less comfortable than the best over-ear headphones – however, I was able to wear the CH520 more happily than most I've tested. There's a fairly notable clamping from the headband on the sides of the head, so people with larger-than-average heads might not love them, but I think they'll go down great with people with smaller skulls.

Despite the cushioning, they're not very noise-blocking (and there's no active noise cancellation), so keep that in mind if you're looking for something for your commute.

The shell is a textured plastic, and feels really well made. It doesn't feel super-premium, but it doesn't feel cheap by any measure either. There are buttons on the bottom of the right-hand earcup for play/pause, volume control and track skipping, and a double-press of the Play button triggers your phone's voice assistant.

The CH520 support Bluetooth multi-point pairing, which is always useful – it means you can rapidly switch between your phone and your laptop for a video call, for example. I had no problems with reliability here, or with their connectivity in general.

Sony's claim of a 50-hour battery life is the icing on the cake, and in my experience that seems about right – though with the caveat that they don't auto-pause when you remove them, and they stay on for a long time when not in use, so if you're not careful you could accidentally run them down.

They charge over USB-C, and come with a short USB-C to USB-A cable in the box. There's no 3.5mm jack option here, sadly, so keep that mind if you want something for a flight or similar, but I doubt it will bother most people looking at these cans.

There is a mic on the Sony WH-CH520 – literally one microphone, and it's best described as "functional" – it's quiet, and not especially clear.

Sony WH-CH520 headphones on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)

Sony WH-CH520 review: Price & release date

  • $60 / £60
  • Launched on Feb 21st 2023

At a highly affordable $60 / £60, the CH520 are firmly aimed at those on a budget. Rivals at this price include the Anker Life Q30 or JBL Tune 710BT, if we're talking about stuff from known brands. Obviously, Amazon is full of cheaper options from names you just saw for the first time.

None of these products is full of bells and whistles given the price, and neither are the Sony CH520, but the app still provides some nice control and additions.

Sony WH-CH520 review: Specs

Should you buy the Sony WH-CH520?

Buy them if...

You want balanced sound for less
There's none of the bass overload you get on some cheaper headphones in an effort to make them sound more exciting – these are made to handle all kinds of music well.

You need long, long battery life
50 hours! You won't need to charge these very often, so if you're the forgetful type, that's a bonus.

You want to switch between devices
Bluetooth multi-point pairing makes these ideal for anyone who switches between listening to their phone and their laptop/tablet a lot.

Don't buy them if...

You need noise-blocking power
With no ANC and not especially noise-isolating earpads, you will hear outside sounds – especially loud vehicles.

You don't find on-ear headphones comfortable
Despite the extra padding, if you usually prefer over-ear headphones, these won't change your mind.

You're want to go audiophile for less
I like the sound here a lot for the price, but if you're an audiophile on a budget,you should look at going wired – you'll get better sound for the same price.

Sony WH-CH520: Also consider

How I tested the Sony WH-CH520

Sony WH-CH520 headphones worn by a man in front of a window

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested for one week
  • Used in an office, while walking in the city, and on public transport
  • Mainly tested with Apple Music and iPhone 13 Pro

To test the Sony WH-CH520N, I used them as part of my normal routine – listening to music over Bluetooth from my phone while working, while walking around the city, and while traveling on buses and trains.

These are lightweight headphones for commuting and home use, so that's where I focused my testing. I also paired them with a laptop to test multi-point pairing, and aside from streaming tracks from Apple Music, I also listened to podcasts, watched downloaded videos, watched videos and listened to music on YouTube, and tried other sources.

I've been testing headphones and audio equipment for around a decade, ranging from affordable options to high-end sets.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed February 2023

Apple HomePod 2 review: rich sound, but doesn’t fix the original’s problems
5:00 pm | January 31, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Apple HomePod 2: Two-minute review

The HomePod 2 is a surprising relaunch for Apple's smart speaker, because at first glance, it doesn't appear to offer much that’s different to the original model. And after taking a much deeper glance (and listen), I can report that it does not, in fact, offer much that’s different to the original.

The HomePod 2 is a fairly compact speaker (smaller than most of the best wireless speakers, though obviously larger than the dinky HomePod mini) with a lot of speaker power built in – and you can hear it. It's energetic, bursting with detail, dynamic, and underlined with natural and resonant bass. For its price, no single speaker sounds quite as good – and combining two in a stereo system makes for even bigger and bolder sound.

But access to this power is frustratingly limited. The only ways to play audio are through the Siri voice assistant, or Apple AirPlay 2 system via Wi-Fi. There's no Bluetooth, no Chromecast, no Spotify Connect, and no aux-in. The only way to send audio to the speaker is from Apple devices, so if anyone in your house doesn't have one, you'll have to decide if you’re okay with excluding them from being able to use the speaker in the same way that others can.

Siri can work with multiple music services now, and can connect to your Apple account to do things like add calendar entries; but it's not as smart as Alexa or Google Assistant for generally interpreting your questions well, so if you're looking for one of the best smart speakers, it may not be top of your list.

However, if you sit in the sweet-spot demographic for the HomePod – an all-Apple house, with Apple Music to take advantage of its upgraded Dolby Atmos skills – the HomePod 2 is perhaps the best-value speaker out there. It’s cheaper than what you get from the hardcore hi-fi brands (such as the Naim Mu-so Qb 2), and with a more full sound than the Sonos One can deliver.

And its new smart-home skills are welcome too, though we'd flag them as 'nice bonuses' rather than 'reasons to buy in the first place'.

Apple HomePod 2 review: Price & release date

The HomePod 2 is released on Friday February 3, 2022.

It costs $299 / £299 / AU$479, which is pretty much what the previous model cost by the time it was discontinued. It's the same price in the US, while it's slightly more expensive in the UK, but that's no surprise given recent currency exchange rates; it's AU$10 more expensive in Australia.

The price is high compared to most of the best smart speakers – even the Amazon Echo Studio, the most expensive Alexa speaker, is nearly half the price. The Sonos One is also much cheaper.

However, there are plenty of much more expensive wireless speakers, including the likes of the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin (2021) or the mighty Naim Mu-So Qb 2nd Gen

So the HomePod is in the middle of the market overall – it's just definitely beyond the high end of what most people will pay for something like this. But then, the HomePod mini covers the more affordable end.

Apple HomePod 2 review: Specs

HomePod 2 on shelf in a home

(Image credit: Future)

Apple HomePod 2 review: Features

  • Use Siri and AirPlay 2 to provide music
  • Dolby Atmos support, including from Apple TV 4K
  • Matter smart home support, with temperature and humidity sensors built in

The features of the new HomePod are very close to the original. It's a Wi-Fi-connected smart speaker based on Apple's Siri assistant, with the ability to also send music to it over Apple's AirPlay 2.

That means it's geared towards music in the Apple ecosystem very heavily. You can use Siri to request songs from Apple Music, though Siri now works with some other music services too. And while you can send music (or any other audio) to it over AirPlay 2 from Apple devices, though there's no Bluetooth, or aux-in, or other way to get audio into it – that means Android devices are left in the cold with the HomePod, as is your turntable.

If you're in an all-Apple house and have no plans to change this in the future, then that's okay. But if one of your two kids uses Android when everyone else uses iPhones, it makes the HomePod 2 a poor investment. There are lots of other speakers that support AirPlay and have options for Android – from the likes of Sonos, Audio Pro, Bowers & Wilkins, and Naim – see our guide to the best AirPlay speakers. If you're in a mixed-device house, you should think very hard whether HomePods are the best option for you, especially at this price.

The HomePod 2 works as part of AirPlay multi-room systems, naturally, and you can use one HomePod on its own, or two in a pair.

The new HomePod is geared up for Dolby Atmos music support from Apple Music, including Spatial Audio – it will bounce sounds off your walls to try to create the feeling of the music being separated into different angles, elements and layers.

And these Dolby Atmos skills will come in useful if you own an Apple TV, because you can use two new HomePods as an alternative to one of the best soundbars – the Apple TV can send all of its sound to the HomePod, including Dolby Atmos 3D audio.

The HomePod 2 also supports lossless audio from Apple Music, for higher-quality audio overall, if you're signed up that service. This is the only way it support Hi-Res music, though – Apple AirPlay 2 tech doesn't currently transmit it, so it's no good for playing stored FLAC files or anything.

The HomePod 2 has an ultra-wideband chip in, which means it can detect when an iPhone 11 or later is close to it, making it easy to beam music from your phone to the HomePod (or vice versa) by just bringing it close. 

This also makes setup very easy – turn on the HomePod 2, and bring your iPhone nearby. A pop-up will appear, asking you to bring the top of the HomePod into view of your phone's camera. Then the HomePod will play a sound to identify itself to the iPhone, and that'll be it. It'll be connected to your iCloud account, gaining access to your Apple Music subscriptions.

HomePod 2 on shelf in a home

(Image credit: Future)

For smart home lovers, the HomePod 2 is even better now. It supports Thread and Matter, which are the next-gen protocols that work with more accessories than ever – as well as Apple HomeKit – and it can trigger automations in your smart home when you're not there. 

It also has built-in temperature and humidity sensors, which are useful for climate-control smart home gear, or just for checking on your home's status. Open Apple's Home app and you can see this info in the 'Climate' option at the top, though during our time with the HomePod, the temperature always showed as being within a range (for example, 17-19°C) which is a bit odd. Sometimes the range is as low as 1.5°C, sometimes it was 3°C. It's not a huge deal, but it's unusual to see imprecision in temperature reporting. The humidity also tends to be in a range, but it was of just two percent in my experience (ie, 63-64%), which is close enough to not bother me.

It's easy to build these into an automation – you could trigger one of the best smart plugs connected to a dehumidifier to turn on if the humidity passes a certain point, for example – from the Automation tab in the Home app.

As for Siri – it works well technically here, being very quick and accurate to pick up commands, and answers from the internet come rapidly. But it still gives some strange responses to even pretty basic music queries, and that's supposed to be its raison d'être here. I asked it to "play Blue Monday". "Playing Blue Monday," Siri responded instantly. I was expecting New Order, but figured I'd maybe get a cover. Instead, I got a song called Here By the Grace of God by Greg Hester, from an album called American Story. This segued into a Bob Dylan song. I'm guessing it found me a playlist called 'Blue Monday'? But there's no way of knowing that for sure – I can see on my iPhone what is playing, but not why.

I asked Siri what the weather will be tomorrow, and it said that Location Services hadn't been activated yet (they had, but only a few minutes earlier, so we'll forgive that to a syncing issue), so it asked me where I wanted to hear the weather for. I told it my home city's name. It read me some facts about my home city and then asked me if I wanted to hear more. Yes! The weather!

Siri is good at taking very clear commands within certain structures. It can take requests to send messages you can ask it to add basic calendar entries (and it can differentiate voices, if you choose to set that feature up), and you can ask it for basic factual information. But it's alarming just how often it stumbles. It simply hasn't made the same progress that other smart assistants have, and should be thought of as a simple voice remote control for your speaker rather than a smart voice interface. And I'm fine with that personally, because audio quality is the draw here for me – if it's the smart part of smart speakers that interests you, look elsewhere.

  • Features score: 3/5

HomePod 2 on shelf in a home

(Image credit: Future)

Apple HomePod 2 review: Sound quality

  • Better suited to acoustic/classical than the original thanks to greater upper-mid clarity
  • Very full and well-balanced sound overall (but slightly slimmer bass than original)
  • Dolby Atmos is much more pronounced and effective, especially in a pair

Let's get something out of the way for people who used the original HomePod: the new version is not as loud as the original. I tested it directly against the original model, and the HomePod 2 at about 50% of maximum volume was equivalent to the original being at roughly 33%. Now, that's not really a problem, because it's still capable of going far beyond filling the average room in a house even with just one HomePod, let alone a pair – but still.

I've already mentioned several times that the audio quality is fantastic for the price. The high-end pops and hits with great clarity, the mid-range is fulsome and expressive, and bass is weighty yet controlled.

So to dig deeper into it, I'm going to compare it to the original HomePod directly. The first thing I noticed was that the top-end feels brighter, which is driven most by more pronounced upper-mids than the original. This is especially clear in higher-pitched vocals in song's like Foxes Gentleman and Haim's Don't Save Me, and in trumpets in Holst's The Planets. The vocals are lifted clearer of the rest of the mix, and it's also easier for denser collections of instruments at the top end to show you every detail.

At the other end, the bass is a little more resonant, but slightly less punchy. In M83's Midnight City, each synth bass beat rolls off slightly slower and feels more dispersed, which is great, but it also doesn't feel like it's hitting as hard – just a little less deep and guttural. Of note, though, is that when I tried it on one of my shelves, the new HomePods produced fewer vibrations into other objects on the shelf.

In South's Paint the Silence, which starts with strummed guitars and a bass line, the guitar pops out more and feels more natural in the new HomePod; but the bass line drops deeper and has more definition from the old HomePod. I would say the elevation of the guitar is more prominent, but I definitely noticed the difference in the bass.

In the mid-range, individual instruments get a little more room to breathe during especially dense moments. Not every song benefits from this, but it was fairly clear when one did – there's definitely more to chew on from the new model.

The sound is a little more forward and aggressive than from the original, which is energising, but also makes it feel more like it's coming from a small point. The original disperses stereo sound a little more, so it feels like it's coming from a corner of the room; the new one feels more like it's being delivered to you from a single unit. I found this clear listening to Dancing in the Dark – the original gave me a whole gritty wall of Bruce's voice hanging out at the back of the room, and the new one felt like the singing was directed right towards me.

This all comes together in The Prodigy's Firestarter in interesting ways. The piercing sounds at the start explode from the new HomePod 2 to grab your attention by the… ears far more than they do from the original HomePod. But then the new version's bass is relatively tame, and it's the original that can bang its head that little bit harder. And the heavily twisted and distorted guitars spread out more in a way that's interesting and enveloping from the original – again, it sounds more dispersed. They lash out excitingly from the new model, but I'm more into the what the original does with them.

I go back and forth on which I prefer when it's one single speaker against the other, basically on a song-by-song basis, and sometimes within the same song. Which is obviously not a problem in itself, but I had hoped for an AirPods Pro 2-style leap forward in audio quality.

However, that's all with stereo music (in Lossless or Hi-Res Lossless, from Apple Music). Switching to Dolby Atmos music allows the new HomePod 2 to reveal its real sound dispersal skills… depending on your positioning.

A single original HomePod doesn't do a ton with Atmos – but the new one is clearly positioning sounds in the mix. In Sweet Child O' Mine, the iconic guitar riff comes from the center, but when Axel Rose's voice is layered over itself, it's clearly coming from more than one angle. Lady Gaga's Chromatica album is a Dolby Atmos playground, and it's the same thing here – the HomePod 2 is able to steer sounds around in the mix in a way that's totally different to what you get from a stereo setup, and more than the original can.

However, Dolby Atmos music doesn't sound as natural as regular music from the HomePod 2. Ironically, adding more spreadable sound makes the sound feel boxier – a little more clipped, a little harder.

HomePod 2 on shelf in a home

(Image credit: Future)

Stepping up to a pair of HomePod 2 units combined into a stereo set gives the system an extra boost with all kinds of music. The forward-ness of the sound doesn't matter, because things are spread between the two anyway. And it feels like the bass gets to go a bit harder – I can't tell if that's just my perception or a freeing up of the system because one unit isn't trying to handle everything at once. Either way, I'm loving them as a pair even more than I liked using the originals in a pair.

And in Dolby Atmos, it's a totally different thing with two HomePod 2s. With them positioned in stereo in front of you, and in a room that's conducive towards sound being bounced around (ie, with walls not too far to the side of you), they can do some pretty incredible things with audio positioning. Instruments come from the side or even slightly behind you, which is a feat that even some of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars can't manage convincingly without actual rear speakers. It's a little spooky, and quite convincing. The joy of Dolby Atmos music is that it makes your favorite tracks a surprise again, and you can really get that with a pair of HomePod 2 speakers.

This largely follows through to using a pair with an Apple TV 4K as Dolby Atmos speakers for movies – an alternative to a soundbar. The HomePods are great at adding height in terms of positioning sounds to match the action on the screen (even a 65-inch screen), though can't quite manage the exact 'above you' Dolby Atmos height that the best soundbars can produce. There's not a lot of precision to it – just sort of generically high. It's the same with a lot of side or rear effects – they don't sound very precise from movies. Yes, it's clear there's width and that you're being roughly 'surrounded', but without the precision that would make it totally convincing. 

Where it can't get behind you, though, it often does a great job with layering the sound instead. In BlacKkKlansman, responses to Brother Kwame's speech echo around, clearly coming from a different source to his words – without real rear speakers, this is as good as you can do, and it works well.

The problem is that the HomePods are so damn tall. Unless you have space to place them past each end of your TV (which I don't, personally), or on a bench under a wall-mounted TV, they will absolutely block part of the screen.

I tried a direct comparison with a Sonos Beam 2nd Gen, which costs around 75% of the price of two HomePod 2s. I would say that the HomePods were marginally superior – the width of their sound expanded further past the edges of the screen, they had more pronounced height, and they're a little more dynamic – but when it came to the core positioning of sounds to the screen, vocal clarity and general sound balance, I think the Sonos delivered 90% of the HomePod 2s' performance… for movies. For music, the HomePods were the winner, especially with Dolby Atmos music.

Going back to looking at the HomePod as just a single standalone unit, and speaking of Sonos… compared to the Sonos One – our other favorite small wireless speaker that goes in an easy multi-room setup – the HomePod 2 remains a clear step up in vibrancy, dynamic range, richness around the mid, and especially in bass. But then, you can get two Sonos One SL units for a little more than one HomePod 2, and (as with the Beam) as an individual speaker you're definitely getting more than half the performance.

And compared to the HomePod mini, it's obviously a big step-up here, too, in every conceivable way. More volume, more clarity, more range… the HomePod Mini is really good for a smaller room, but for anything larger, the HomePod 2 really comes into its own. 

  • Sound quality score: 4.5/5

HomePod 2 on shelf in a home

(Image credit: Future)

Apple HomePod 2 review: Design

  • Lovely fabric exterior in Midnight (black) or white
  • Swirling lights on top are fun
  • Short cable (five feet), but you can swap it

The new HomePod 2 looks almost the same as the original HomePod, with its round shape and fabric-covered exterior. I like this design a lot – it looks nice when you focus on it, but it's also great at just blending into the background when you're not, because it feels very neutral. The fabric looks nicer than plastic or a similar finish, and doesn't reflect light. The black (sorry, 'Midnight') and white finishes are lovely and neutral, though I would've liked to see some funky colors like the HomePod mini has.

On top, there's a swirling colored 'screen' (it doesn't show info, it just shows when Siri or music is active). On the original HomePod, this was just a small dot in the center, but now it's the whole top, just like on the HomePod mini. The top is also sunken slightly 'into' the fabric.

The new model is the same diameter as the original at 5.6 inches / 142mm, and is nearly the same height – it's imperceptibly shorter at 6.6 inches / 168mm rather than 6.8 inches / 173mm.

One useful change is that the power cable isn't permanently attached any more – you can just pull it out the back, which can help with installing it on a set of shelves or something. Even more usefully, it means you could swap the annoying short included five-foot cable out for a longer one, because it's a standard figure-eight connector (though you'd need to made sure that one you buy will fit in Apple's hole).

The inside of the HomePod 2 is very different, even though a lot of the principles are the same. For example, there's still a big four-inch high-excursion woofer at the top to handle mid-range and bass. Being 'high-excursion' means the driver moves especially far forward and back (20mm, in this case), so it can displace more air and produce a bigger, deeper sound.

And there's still a ring of higher-frequency tweeters underneath the woofer, but now there are five tweeters instead of the seven in the original HomePod, and they're placed at the bottom of the unit and angle upwards, to help avoid audio reflections from the surface the HomePod is placed on.

  • Design score: 4/5

HomePod 2 on shelf in a home

(Image credit: Future)

Apple HomePod 2 review: Value

  • Sound quality for the price is excellent
  • Limited inputs harm overall value
  • It'll depend partly on how Apple-mad you are

I am the perfect target for the HomePod 2. I use Apple Music as my main music source. I use Apple TV 4K for movies. Everyone in my household has an iPhone. I don't need a single set of speakers to be able to connect to a turntable or other more traditional music source. And I don't have a lot of spare space – for me, their mix of big sound from a small package is ideal. I think they're great value in my situation, even if I think Siri is practically a bit vestigial at this point (I do use it to request music, but that's pretty much it, and I've been using HomePods since 2018).

However, despite offering me a huge amount of options and nice features, the HomePod 2's inflexibility outside of that can't be ignored. I think of the Apple TV 4K (2022), which is really popular with people who have no other Apple products, because it's simply the best streaming device on the planet, and doesn't require other Apple devices to function. With Bluetooth and/or an aux-in, the HomePod 2 could be the same for music – the best-sounding speaker for those who want more than they can get from the best Bluetooth speakers, but without spending serious hi-fi money.

As it is, its value is a bit all-or-nothing. It's either a great buy for all-in Apple users, or a poor buy for everyone else. So the score below for the people who actually should consider buying it – it's great value, but it'd be even better with some extra options.

  • Value score: 4/5

Should you buy the HomePod 2?

Buy it if…

Don't buy it if…

Apple HomePod 2 review: Also consider

How I tested the HomePod 2

  • I listened to the HomePod 2 for about 12 hours overall
  • I listened mainly to music from Apple Music, and movies from Apple TV 4K
  • I tested and reviewed it as a single unit mainly, but also tested it in a stereo pair

I tested the HomePod 2 at home, where I've used other wireless speakers including the original HomePod, HomePod mini and Sonos One. To prepare my HomePod 2 units for testing and allow them to run in, I allowed them to play music for about 12 hours before I listened with any judgment.

While testing, I switched between multiple genres of music, and primary listened through Apple Music, because it provides lossless audio as well as Dolby Atmos support (and, y'know, it's what the HomePod 2 is built to work with).

I compared it directly with the original HomePod for some forensic level analysis, placing both speakers next to each other, and playing the same track on both, switching between them. For most of my listening time, the HomePods were placed on a wood-fibre shelving unit, to avoid vibrations.

For testing their movie skills, I used them with an Apple TV 4K (2021), playing movies from Apple's own store that included Dolby Atmos soundtracks. To compare with the Sonos Beam, I connected the Sonos Beam to my TV over HDMI eARC, and played the exact same movies via the Apple TV.